Bombing a place I know well

Douglas Hanson
The Iraqi Parliament building was hit by a suicide bomber on Thursday, and according  to the AP (via the Washington Times), there were eight people killed and about thirty wounded.  Many more stories and analysis will surely follow, but here are a few comments based on the AP report and my almost daily visits to that same building in the summer of 2003.

- Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra says the Parliament building is "in the heart of of the heavily fortified Green Zone."  This is false.  The Iraqi Parliament meets in what was known as the Convention Center right across the street from the Al-Rashid Hotel only a few hundred feet from the northern boundary of the secure area.  This  BBC aerial photo shows the location of the building.  If the BBC's map is correct, it appears that the northwest portion of the boundary has been extended since the early days of the occupation, but the northern and northeast boundaries remain essentially the same, i.e., they are within RPG and mortar range of key structures.  This is the fallacy of having a fortified secure zone without having completely subdued the enemy in the first place.  Imagine trying to form a representative democracy in Fort Apache.

- Zahra's account tries to paint all attacks as rare.  Maybe this is true for suicide bomb attacks, but not indirect fire strikes such as the attack  on former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Al-Rashid in October of 2003.  Thanks to the boundary being only a short distance away, as mentioned above, and no routine clearance of the outlying security zone, a terrorist parked a crude, but effective mobile rocket launcher within range of the hotel.  The result was several floors of the hotel damaged and one US service member killed.

- In the early days, there was an outer security cordon and everyone had to go through one checkpoint.  Once at the building, there was another checkpoint where bags, packs, etc. were checked.  We can't tell from the article what security measures are currently in place, but it's hard to imagine that they have lightened up in the interim given years of increasing "insurgent" attacks.  Therefore, it seems entirely possible that it was an inside job as some speculate.  AP quotes government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, and he,

said that those behind the attack might work in the building. "There are some groups that work in politics during the day and do things other than politics at night,"
- The bomber was clever in choosing the cafeteria as his target, since on normal days, politicians and staff are spread around several offices and meeting rooms through several floors of the building.  The cafeteria is the natural gathering place over the course of a working day for important Iraqi leaders and their assistants.

This attack and the bombing of the al-Sarafiya bridge are part of the continuing campaign to reinforce traditional tribal and religious animosities in the capital city and to split the Parliament.  Also, a daring attack such as this only plays off of our own Congress' surrender plans, and at this critical juncture in the Iraq campaign, we can ill afford to go wobbly, or disaster will follow for the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi Parliament building was hit by a suicide bomber on Thursday, and according  to the AP (via the Washington Times), there were eight people killed and about thirty wounded.  Many more stories and analysis will surely follow, but here are a few comments based on the AP report and my almost daily visits to that same building in the summer of 2003.

- Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra says the Parliament building is "in the heart of of the heavily fortified Green Zone."  This is false.  The Iraqi Parliament meets in what was known as the Convention Center right across the street from the Al-Rashid Hotel only a few hundred feet from the northern boundary of the secure area.  This  BBC aerial photo shows the location of the building.  If the BBC's map is correct, it appears that the northwest portion of the boundary has been extended since the early days of the occupation, but the northern and northeast boundaries remain essentially the same, i.e., they are within RPG and mortar range of key structures.  This is the fallacy of having a fortified secure zone without having completely subdued the enemy in the first place.  Imagine trying to form a representative democracy in Fort Apache.

- Zahra's account tries to paint all attacks as rare.  Maybe this is true for suicide bomb attacks, but not indirect fire strikes such as the attack  on former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Al-Rashid in October of 2003.  Thanks to the boundary being only a short distance away, as mentioned above, and no routine clearance of the outlying security zone, a terrorist parked a crude, but effective mobile rocket launcher within range of the hotel.  The result was several floors of the hotel damaged and one US service member killed.

- In the early days, there was an outer security cordon and everyone had to go through one checkpoint.  Once at the building, there was another checkpoint where bags, packs, etc. were checked.  We can't tell from the article what security measures are currently in place, but it's hard to imagine that they have lightened up in the interim given years of increasing "insurgent" attacks.  Therefore, it seems entirely possible that it was an inside job as some speculate.  AP quotes government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, and he,

said that those behind the attack might work in the building. "There are some groups that work in politics during the day and do things other than politics at night,"
- The bomber was clever in choosing the cafeteria as his target, since on normal days, politicians and staff are spread around several offices and meeting rooms through several floors of the building.  The cafeteria is the natural gathering place over the course of a working day for important Iraqi leaders and their assistants.

This attack and the bombing of the al-Sarafiya bridge are part of the continuing campaign to reinforce traditional tribal and religious animosities in the capital city and to split the Parliament.  Also, a daring attack such as this only plays off of our own Congress' surrender plans, and at this critical juncture in the Iraq campaign, we can ill afford to go wobbly, or disaster will follow for the Iraqi people.